GUAM DODGING RETIREMENT FUND RESPONSIBILITY

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (June 14) – Once again, the Guam Public School System is having financial problems caused by a lack of cash. And, once again, officials within the school system have wrongly chosen to use that as an excuse to not pay contributions into the Government of Guam Retirement Fund.

But what they essentially are doing is committing a crime against the employees of the school system. Making these payments is not optional; it's mandatory. By not paying retirement contributions to the Retirement Fund and choosing to use that money for other expenses, GPSS officials are stealing from their own workers.

This is not the first time the school system has used retirement contributions for other costs - it already had owed about $17 million to the Retirement Fund for failing to pay retirement contributions during fiscal 2003. And former Superintendent Rosie Tainatongo and the school system's former controller, Raymond Miranda, have been indicted in Superior Court on allegations of not paying the contributions.

That's what makes the department's failure to make these payments puzzling. The current management of the school system knows that the last time retirement contributions weren't paid, top school officials were indicted. The "we don't have enough money" excuse doesn't protect school system managers from being held accountable for not making the agency's contributions to the Retirement Fund.

This matter should have been brought up about a month ago, when school officials knew for sure that they wouldn't be able to make the payments. Why did school system officials keep this situation quiet? The right thing to do would have been to yell loudly.

If the school system isn't getting the amount of money it needs to operate schools, meet payroll and pay its bills and other obligations, that's an issue that needs to be addressed by elected officials, and in an open and transparent manner.

But the bottom line here is that GPSS management must follow the law. They have to make retirement contributions - there are no acceptable excuses for failing to do so.

June 14, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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